1956: When Elvis’ Vegas Debut Came To A Screeching Halt

Elvis Presley / YouTube

During the mid 1950’s, the man known for his hip-swinging, luscious lips, and iconic voice was at the height of his career. The 21-year-old Elvis Presley was all the rage and nearly every show of his was sold out with swaths of squealing girls.

Even The Las Vegas Sun reported that his arrival was one of the most anticipated yet, saying “The handsome 21-year-old rock ‘n’ roller’s appearance is considered to be the Las Vegas entertainment scoop of the year.” 

Booked for the New Frontier Hotel’s “Venus Room”, Elvis was set to perform in a dinner-theater setting. The young star was on the same bill as familiar Vegas acts like Freddy Martin, Shecky Greene, and the Venus Starlets.

Although The Sun started off on a high note, it only went down from there. As Real Clear History describes it, “the audience’s enthusiasm soured”.

“There, over their watered-down cocktails and lukewarm chicken cordon bleu, the middle-aged, married couples from Middle America sat mostly mute during Elvis’ act, looking perplexed by such numbers as “Blue Suede Shoes,” and applauding politely at the end, more out of mercy than anything else…”

The audience, like The Sun and other critics such as Forrest Duke heavily criticized Elvis’ performance, saying he “piles trick upon trick, gimmick upon gimmick” and “for the average Vegas spendor or show-goer, [he’s] a bore”.

Although so many critics harshly judged Elvis for not tailoring his act toward his audience and instead leaving it as the same one drawing hordes of teenage girls to other shows, one reader decided to back up the soon to be King of Rock And Roll.

In an open letter to the editor of The Sun, Vegas resident and avid reader of the paper, Ed Jameson, tore into the review – even going as far to call out the author he recognized as the usual writer of the crime blotter.

“I will try to bravely carry on after reading the report of the SUN’s police reporter concerning Mr. Elvis Presley now holding forth at the Venus Room of the Hotel New Frontier.”

“I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him. Despite the acid hemlock broth stirred by the Sun’s copy boy methinks Mr. Presley will survive and live to sing some more. Not that for many moons to come his name will be well known about the countryside.”

And Jameson was one hundred percent right. Elvis, as you know, went on to become one of the most beloved and admired musicians in the entire world.

Watch the video below of the performance that earned The King a “lukewarm” reception by his middle-aged audience.

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